What is a walkie-talkie?

Guess what: a portable device which can transmit your voice through the air, but is not a mobile phone? It seems you’ve heard something about an outdated appliance called β€œradio”… wait a minute! Does it still exist? Oh, yeah! It exists and not going to die!

Walkie-talkies versus cell phones

Two-way radios are now popular and able to replace a mobile phone in some cases. Here are several reasons to use a walkie-talkie:

In work groups, when people need to connect to each other immediately, a cell phone does not fit. A radio works differently from a mobile phone: the only you need is to put the button and speak, don’t need to dial and wait for connecting. It saves time and allows communicating with a lot of people at the same time.

It’s free. You don’t need to pay for a call, and this is really a good reason.
In the places where your mobile phone does not work because of the absence of a radio tower, a walkie-talkie can help you. All radio needs for functioning is its battery and an antenna. A radio is independent of a mobile operator with his troubles of connection. You can use it in the Amazonian forest, in the mountains, far in the sea and even in space. Having a powerful two-way radio and permission to use you can really talk to astronauts on the ISS!

It’s easy to use. A walkie-talkie does not have any entertaining apps, nor a photo camera, nor the Internet for fun. Some of them are supplied with advanced functionality, such as text messages, Bluetooth, GPS, data transmission over the Internet (only for increase of a range and for cleanliness of a sound), but these models are expensive and need official permission to use. In all other cases, walkie-talkies are used only for talk and listening to FM-radio as a maximum. So, you can just buy and use it.

Unlike a cell phone, it’s resistant to external factors. Usually, they have a rugged case with water- and dust resistance. So, you can’t break it easily. More expensive models are shockproof – and in this case, you should make a big effort to break it!

But don’t forget that a two-way radio has less coverage area than a cell phone and its sound cannot be clear on a long distance. And in spite of the availability of many frequencies, you must not use it all except for only one range which is permitted for use without the license – they are different in different countries. PMR (446 MHz) is used in most European countries, LPD (433 MHz) is in Europe too, but it is much less widespread, FRS/GMRS channels are used in the USA and Canada.

How do walkie talkies work?

A radio transmitter is the heart of a two-way radio, its eyes, voice and life power. It’s that magic, which sends your words to the other people standing far away. You put the main big button, wait for a couple of seconds, say β€œHello” and listen to reaction from the other side. The main principle of how does it work is based on radio waves – the invisible flows that travel through the air. They can penetrate the air and the vacuum, but the water or any solid matter is unavailable for them. So, take a note about it when using your radio outdoor.

When you speak, a receiver turns your voice into a signal, then an antenna sends it to all radios which are located near you. There, the signal is decrypted into a voice again. So, all surrounding people who have a radio can hear you.

How far can walkie-talkie reach?

Probably, it’s the most frequent and difficult question that people are interested in. The issue is in a variety of different factors which influence on a range. It’s important to realize that a two-way radio does not have a characteristic called β€œa communication range”. However, let’s try to solve the task. A communication range depends on these factors:

  • Output power. If your walkie-talkie has 0.5–1 Watt of power, all you can count on is a line of sight. You can try to increase the range by buying the longer antenna and choosing the highest place to send a signal. If you have more than 1 Watt of power you also may not reach much more range, because of the power is not the first question for the portative radios. But if you an owner of a CB-radio – yes, high power can help you to cover the more field.
  • Antenna. You can get more benefit from an external antenna than from a built-in. The principle is easy: the longer and better the antenna is, the further signal reaches. Don’t hold a radio horizontally, the better position is vertical, then an antenna will work right and you can get a maximum profit. If you have a base radio station at home, you can use a big stationary antenna on your roof or a wall, if it’s permitted by your country’s police. In this case, you can try to connect to a satellite passing by under your side.
  • Battery power. Surprisingly, but battery charge influence on a communicating range. Hold the battery full and use the type of battery that the producer provided.
  • Receiver sensitivity. This option is more important than output power. You better bye a walkie-talkie with more sensitivity of a receiver than with more power. This way, your radio will be able to better β€œhear” a far-distanced signal. It’s good for a hand-held radio to have the sensitivity of less than 0.5 and 1.5 for CB-radio. If some producers don’t provide this information, it is probably a bad sign.
  • Landscape and barriers. The fewer barriers are around you – the better. As we said above, radio waves can travel through the air and the vacuum but can’t go through a solid matter. Based on this, try to choose the hills or an open field to send a message. Broadcast across a lake would be the best. Try to avoid interferes: other radios, military bases, other emitting objects.

CB-radios and walkie-talkie long range.

Walkie-talkies can reach 4–7 miles (up to 11 km) in a field, 2–5 miles (up to 8 km) in a forest, the same in a town and in a village, and 2–4 miles (about 6.44 km) in a big industrial city.

CB-radios can reach 5–13 miles (up to 21 km) in a city between two cars, 15–35 – between a car and a radioset with a stationary antenna located on a building’s roof, and 9–22 if a car connects to a track with a big antenna.

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